Canadian Bishops Respond to Youth Concerns
Prof. Joshua Roldan commends the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for meeting today’s young Catholics where they find themselves in a new normal shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are still many things that young people – and everyone – struggle with in the reality we live in now,” Roldan said following the publication of the CCCB Youth Pastoral Letter on 12 october.
“The letter is very honest and true when it comes to talking about virtual conversations, live Masses and even the anxieties they experience throughout their lives,” added Roldan, director of the Youth Office. Catholic of the Archdiocese of Toronto (OCY). “It reminds them of the baptismal promises of Christ, that he is there even in the face of uncertainty, worry and anxiety. And it also reminds them that Jesus is the source where we can find peace, courage and comfort.
Much time and effort has been expended over the past two years to ensure that the letter speaks compellingly to Catholic teenagers and young adults. The Office for Evangelism and Catechesis and the Office for Family and Life of the CCCB engaged in more than 200 virtual conversations with young people aged 12 to 25 in the fall of 2020. These offices then wrote the letter, which was given the stamp of approval by the CCCB Permanent Council in June.
“As bishops of Canada,” reads the first paragraph of the letter, “we wish to walk with young people, not only to better understand the world through their experience, but also to encourage and support them to as they grow in their own lives. Faith.”
After the introductory remarks, the letter dives into different thematic sections, each with reflective questions intended to spark lively discussion and deep introspection on the content. The CCCB envisions this letter to be effective both for individual reflection and for congregations such as youth groups, school classrooms, and other faith communities.
One section details the Gospel story of Mary and Joseph discovering a teenage Jesus astonishing the temple elders with his wisdom and prophetic insight after searching for three days. This section asks the youth to think about people who nurtured their faith. The section on technology and faith implores young people to think about how the Church could do a more effective job tapping into technology to speak to the leaders of tomorrow, while a segment on Mary asks, “How can the “yes” of Mary help you better understand God’s plan? for your life?”
Roldan said he liked the inclusion of a quote from Pope Francis’ 2019 apostolic exhortation to young people Christus Vivit: “Jesus does not teach you, young people, from afar or from the outside, but from within your youth, a youth that he shares with you. … He was truly one of you.
“I think when (young people) see the testimony that other Catholics have an encounter with Christ, they want to walk and talk and find out who this Jesus is, not just by the witnesses they see, they want to have that same experience for themselves,” he said.
Eleanor Wong, youth coordinator at St. Matthew’s parish in Surrey, said The British Columbia Catholic that she appreciated the stimulating tone of the letter.
“It was good to see the issues I see in my ministry addressed in a document from Church authorities. It makes us feel heard.
“A lot of young people don’t feel like they have autonomy or agency in their faith, maybe because their parents force them to go to church,” she says. “It’s great for them to see that their perspective matters.”
The publication of the letter on October 12 was a deliberate decision by the CCB. It was published on the anniversary of the death of Blessed Carlos Acutis (1991-2006) from leukemia. The English-born Italian Catholic youth, beatified on October 10, 2020, have emerged as a model of faith that can particularly inspire millennials and Gen Z disciples of Christ to be vibrant disciples of the Gospel. An avid computer programmer, he listed all the Eucharistic miracles in the world on a website he designed.
A question in the letter asks young people, “How does the legacy of Blessed Carlos Acutis inspire you to be an extraordinary and ordinary young person of faith?
The letter is on www.cccb.ca.